Google Loses appeal Against EU Antitrust Decision, Further Investigations Loom
The European Court upheld a ruling that Google violated competition rules and found it at a record 4.1 billion euros.
Luxembourg: Google suffered its biggest setback on Wednesday when a European top court upheld a ruling that it had violated competition rules and imposed a record fine of 4.1 billion euros, in a move that could encourage other regulators to increase pressure on the US giant Google.
The unit of US tech giant Alphabet has appealed the EU’s antitrust decision, but the General Court of Europe largely upheld the decision, slightly lowering the fine to 4.125 million euros ($4.13 billion) from 4.34 billion euros.
Even with the reduction, it was still a standard fine for antitrust violations. The European Union’s antitrust watchdog has fined the world’s most popular internet search engine a total of 8.25 billion euros in three investigations dating back more than a decade.
The ruling aims to advance historic rules aimed at limiting the power of US tech giants that will come into effect next year.
“The ruling strengthens the authority of the Commission. It confirms that the Commission can use antitrust measures as a backup threat to quickly enforce digital regulation, also known as DMA,” said Nicholas Petti, a professor at the European University Institute.
EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager did not spit words.
“That, of course, is really good. Now, we have the second trial from Google, and for us, it’s really important because it supports our law enforcement efforts.”
This is the second legal defeat for Google, which lost 2.42 billion euros ($2.42 billion) in challenging the fine last year, and the first of three cases.
“The General Court largely supports the Commission’s decision that Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android mobile device manufacturers and mobile operators in order to strengthen the dominant position of its search engine,” the court said.
“In order to better reflect the seriousness and duration of the breach, the General Court considers it appropriate, however, to impose a fine of €4.125 million on Google, the reasoning of which differs in some respects from that of the Commission,” the judges said.
Google, which can appeal legal cases to the European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court, has expressed disappointment.
A spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the court did not overturn the decision entirely. Android has created more options for everyone, not less, and supports thousands of successful companies in Europe and around the world.”
Push Against Rust
The ruling is a boost for Vestager after the general court overturned its decisions against Intel and Qualcomm earlier this year.
Vestager has made his crackdown on big tech companies a hallmark of his business, a move that has encouraged regulators in the United States and elsewhere to follow suit.
It is currently investigating Google’s digital advertising business, its handling of Jedi Blue advertising with Meta, Apple’s App Store rules, Meta market and data usage, Amazon’s online marketplace, and sales practices.
The court agreed with the panel’s assessment that iPhone maker Apple was not in the same market and thus could not be a competitive restraint against Android.
Court support could bolster the EU’s antitrust watchdog in its investigations into Apple’s business practices in the music streaming market, which the regulator says dominates Apple.
FairSearch, whose 2013 complaint raised the EU case, said the ruling could lead to more competition in the smartphone market.
“This shows that the European Commission got it right. Google can no longer impose its will on phone manufacturers. They can now open their devices to competition in search and other services, allowing consumers to benefit from more choices,” he said. Attorney Thomas Finge.
The Commission said in its 2018 decision that Google used Android to strengthen its dominance in public internet search through payments to major manufacturers and mobile operators and restrictions.
Google said it acted like many other companies and that such payments and deals help keep the Android operating system free, and criticized the EU’s decision as inconsistent with the economic realities of its mobile software platforms.
The case is T-604/18 Google vs EC.
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